Calling all self-employed folks - does it work for you?

(42 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 22-Sep-08 11:33:50

We know there are quite a few Mumsnetters who've gone down the self-employed route either by choice, or necessity and for the Home Front research we'd love to know how it's worked out for you. Did you (or your partner) get maternity/ paternity leave?

What are the great things/ and the not so great things about being self- employed?

What, if anything, would help you/your partner as a self-employed person, to combine work and family life more effectively..

Over to you smile

littlelapin Mon 22-Sep-08 11:43:41

Great things -
- not commuting grin
- spending plenty of time with DS while he is little
- flexibility to spend long hols with DH occasionally when he gets extended leave for one reason or another
- easy to move around the country (admittedly this is fairly specific to our circumstances, and my industry)
- satisfaction of being your own boss and making all the decisions

Not so great things -
- having to make all the decisions!
- not having cover; ie if I am ill and have a project on, I HAVE to work through it
- having to provide my own healthcare and pensions package
- lack of consistency in income
- days like today, where DS is not at nursery, DH IS at work, and I have tonnes of stuff to do

I could do with an assistant <sigh> or a nanny!

Lizzylou Mon 22-Sep-08 11:44:16

Will let you know in a few months, am in the process of starting it all up at the moment!

Getting sorted has been hard so far though, my childcare doesn't start until next week so have been relying on MIL and feel like I am neglecting everything - the DC's, our home/housework and the new business.

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 22-Sep-08 11:44:43

We run a B&B. WE both work it together in the summer and then DH goes off in the quieter times to top up the coffers.

Advantages - DD is in nursery from 8 until 1 so we do breakfasts, rooms and are done by lunchtime and then pick her up so she gets a huge amount of time with both of us, DS will start one morning a week after christmas. We live in a lovely house in a lovely part of the world.

Disadvantage - this year we had DS in June we closed 4 days before he was born (ELective section) and opened when he was 8 days old, we were lucky enough to rent our whole house out for 2 weeks in July but have been non syop since then, so the bickering between us is increasing and we are looking forward to our holiday. There is aalways that constant worry about whether you are going to have enough money to pay the bills and very careful budgeting and keeping an eye on the finances. Losing money because people don't bother turning up and don't phone, it can be a starin being nice the whole time.

Overall the advantages outweigh the disdvantages.

JODIEhadababy Mon 22-Sep-08 11:49:26

I agree with Littlelapin.
Flexible Hours
Can work in your PJ's
Loads of time to spend with DS's
No Commute
No 'morning rush' to get out of the house

No sick pay
No holiday pay
No one to fall back on if need be

I did/do get Maternity allowance at the full rate as I pay NI.

littlelapin Mon 22-Sep-08 11:54:21

oh yes, am not dressed yet grin

I also pay NI so will get maternity pay if we ever manage to have no.2 - although I don't know how much maternity leave I would give myself! The Navy gives DH 3 weeks (unless he is deployed)

suey2 Mon 22-Sep-08 12:02:32

I ahve had my own physio practice for 5.5 years. I deliberately started it so that i could work the hours i wanted to after starting a family.
Initially is was very, very hard work- working 60 hours per week to get it all set up. That was for about 3 years. Then it became more manageable. I had my first DC 9 months ago.

IME pros:
I normally work 3 days a week 9 to 5.
The work i do is just as rewarding as BC (before children)
I am in control of everything
I can take long holidays (DH self employed

I am in control of everything!

I am the fall back: i am doing full time hours just now to cover holiday

The money isn't guaranteed: a changeover of staff sends the numbers plummetting. Someone left just before my maternity started, someone left during it and someone resigned during it. Numbers down by a third and i have to borrow money to get throught the last bit of my ML.

I had to go back to work when DD was 4.5 months old because of the last resignation

You don't get the employment rights you give your employees! IE mat pay etc

Blackduck Mon 22-Sep-08 12:07:48

LP I'll be your assistant!
I'm freelancing at the moment. Con for me is the lack of social contact -I'm working at home at the moment, and I miss other colleagues around me. Pro: I can do the school run if I choose to and I like surprising DS.

orangina Mon 22-Sep-08 12:18:52

I'm self employed, though don't work from home.


No office politics. I only account to myself, not to anyone else.
I make the decisions, can (more or less) dictate my workload (though obviously this doesn't always go according to plan) and theoretically ramp up work level or take it down again.
Can take time off as wanted/needed to take kids to doctors, do nursery drop offs, etc.
In theory if I'm extra busy or take on extra work, it SHOULD result in more £££. I can agree this in advance w dh and we can arrange ourselves (childcare etc) accordingly.
Can work from home in the evenings if I have to (though I try not to).

I make all the decisions.
No-one to delegate to AT ALL.
Lead up to holiday times are totally hellish trying to get everything done and ahead of myself.
Can be tied to my mobile phone while on holiday.
If childcare takes time off or is sick, I invariably cover. Work starts to feel like hobby then.
No sick cover, just struggle through or stop working (and have huge load waiting for me when I get back). Ditto trying to work when I'm up multiple times in night w sick/fractious/wilful dc....
Maternity pay does not come anywhere close to salary level, so I end up semi bankrupting myself while on maternity leave.
No sick pay, maternity pay.
I can lie in bed at night worrying about it all.
Am now thoroughly bored of my own company and long for some office banter. Oh, and professional development too of course....


2Eliza2 Mon 22-Sep-08 12:19:11

No commute
At home if children are off sick
Can stick a load of washing onto the line in between assignments.
Ditto cooking and dog walk
Can do voluntary job in school

Isolation from other adults
Sometimes hard to get into work mode
Loss of benefits like pension, healthcare, etc
Missing out on learning new skills from being around other highly professional adults.

goingslowlyroundthebend Mon 22-Sep-08 12:22:31

Am at home
Do all the school runs and am here when ever DS needs me
No commute
No office crap
Thank god for blackberry!

Its all on my shoulders
Tied to deadlines (can be surreal standing on football pitch discussing a deal!)
Chasing payment is vile
No escape from it

CatMandu Mon 22-Sep-08 12:31:20


I make all my appointments to fit in with the dc's.
I get to be me and not just Muuuuum.
Money, having been a SAHM for years anything I earn is a plus.
No office politics.
No boss
I can still be Mum at the school and have a career.


Alll responsibility on me
If the dc's are ill and off school I can't work and have to let down clients - very very difficult.
Accounts - yuk.
Attempting to get the dc's to be quite when I'm on a business phone call. (which tbh they are v good at, but it's stressful)

What would help:

I think childcare should be tax deductable for all employed people. I paid £300 last term for my dc's to go to an after school club one day a week for a term. I have to offer afternoon appointments one day a week and couldn't do it without the childcare. It's not fair that I can't set this against tax.

ingles2 Mon 22-Sep-08 12:32:13

I have a wonderful creative job with heaps of satisfaction
I can earn a lot
I get to do the school runs.. occasionally

I have to commute to London and sometimes at the drop of the hat.
my income is erratic
my working hours are erratic
I feel I can never take a day off, or refuse work incase I lose a client
I can't be sick.. ever...

I didn't take maternity pay and I'm not sure there's anything anyone can do to help <sob>

GobbledigookisThrifty Mon 22-Sep-08 12:34:54

I am freelance working from home

I am around all of the time that the children are not in school - can do school runs, after school activities, holidays are not an issue
No childcare costs
I can do as much or as little work as I like (in theory grin)
I can do the work when it suits me - so if I want to spend some time in the day doing other things I can work in the evening or a bit on the weekends
I am keeping abreast of developments in my industry which means I could easily go back to employment in the same sector if I wanted to
I have time to do all the other things I want to do - PTA involvement, reading in school, shopping and running errands during school hours is infinitely easier than on a weekend - I NEVER supermarket shop or clothes shop on a weekend
I can go for lunch with friends or meet for coffee

No holiday or sick pay
If I don't work - I don't get paid - this means if I'm ill I usually battle through it whereas I'd just take the day off if employed
Motivation - easy to be distracted at home
No social interaction wrt work although I get this through other things (good network of friends who are also around during the day, PTA stuff, helping in school)
It's hard to say no to work so I sometimes find myself totally overloaded adn working solidly from morning until night for days on end - particularly if I've had a quiet period and I need to make up for it. If work is offered I generally do it!

I pay NI so got maternity allowance

Can't think of anything else that would help me - I think I've got it good tbh, despite the drawbacks

GobbledigookisThrifty Mon 22-Sep-08 12:36:56

Oh yes, forgot

No commuting
No office politics

snowleopard Mon 22-Sep-08 12:37:22

I write and edit books from home, 3 days a week plus some evenings.

No office politics/colleagues/bosses around is no. 1 pro - I love being alone to get on with it.
Loads of space to work - home office, sofa, garden, coffee shop, even in bed if I like.
Flexible hours obviously a massive plus with DS
No commute, no rush in the morning
No guilt if DS ill - it's tough if I have a deadline, but at lesst I don't have to answer to a boss or get disapproving looks from colleagues, or get sidelined, for having time off.
Can skive off for a haircut or shopping or just time to myself (if not busy) - no one will know

No cover - if I'm ill or DS is ill, my work just piles up.
Hard to manage workload as I run several projects at once - so do end up with heavy deadlines and late nights.
End up spending work time on stuff like dealing with window cleaner / gas man / etc etc etc, urgent housework/DIY and anything house-related, because I'm there.
Fecking cat sitting on keyboard - you don't get that in most workplaces
No benefits - but pay is quite good, so I manage.

I did get some maternity pay because of a legal loophole - though freelance I was legally "employed" by one of my clients for various complex reasons and they had to pay me maternity pay - but that has been changed now so wouldn't happen again.

I feel we have a good mix of work and family life - DP tries to get home for bedtime, we have weekends together and I have 2 weekdays with DS as well. Only improvement for me would be if I could work less and spend some of my time on my own more creative projects - I'm trying to work towards that.

orangina Mon 22-Sep-08 12:40:19

I agree w how being able to put at least SOME childcare costs against tax would be a massive help. TBH, I felt that until recently, I have been not really MAKING much money, just ticking over (once childcare costs have been taken into account), but I see it as an investment in my work for the future. It feels good for me that I have managed to stay in my profession without more than 6 months out at a time, thereby (hopefully) safeguarding my career/earning power etc....

DrHorrible Mon 22-Sep-08 12:42:45


Pros - Can fit in with kids sick/concerts etc
- no travelling expenses
- MN wink
- all in my hands

Cons - have to self motivate blush
- no other adults
- no sick leave/cover
- all down to me
- interruptions
- MN wink

I find it hard doing it all around kids etc, it will be easier when DS is at preschool. It has given me back a life that I lost through having children though - I didn't want to GO to work as I value the early years too much and we are lucky to just about cope with me not.

DrHorrible Mon 22-Sep-08 12:43:53

I need to look into things like maternity etc with being self employed (NO I AM NOT PREGNANT). I do pay NI

KatyMac Mon 22-Sep-08 12:48:43


I can eat what I want
I can (sometimes) get time off when I want

I fill in when anyone else can't
Stress of being in charge
Accounts are a major hassle & always end up at the weekend
the line between work & home is blurred

It is complicated for me as DH does most of the childcare tbh (at least of our own child) but if I had to care for her too our lives would be very different as she couldn't do all the clubs/after school stuff she does

morningpaper Mon 22-Sep-08 13:06:56

- No boss to explain childcare-related crises to;
- Free to manage own time;
- Can make tasty snacks all day.

- Have to explain childcare-related crises to clients;
- Generally spend own time procrastinating and MNing errrr like NOW;
- Kitchen gets very messy from constant preparation of sustaining snacks.
- no grown-ups to chat to;
- no sick pay/pension etc.

I think self-employed people should be allowed to work part-time (say, up to 16 hours a week) and STILL be paid SMP - SMP is CRAP pay and you lose a lot of business if you can't do anything at all for that period. Although an employed woman will go back to work after Maternity Leave on the same salary, a self-employed woman will often have to take a pay cut, because she will have lost a lot of client basis over the time she has taken off.

Pinkyminkee Mon 22-Sep-08 13:50:48

Well I've only restarted my business in a very small way as I'm looking after my children full time and about to have another, but
I like working by myself
can choose my hours (depending upon projectan work late at night (favourite time)
No-one to slow me down
no office politics

chasing payment can be a pain
lack of emplyment rights
some people think it means you are available 24/7

I get MA through NI contributions, though it is a cut in pay

Cat no longer allowed in studio, but she used to sit in front of monitor playing havoc with the power button.

It can be very 'feast and famine' when you are starting out.

hatwoman Mon 22-Sep-08 14:00:00


no commuting (but see below)
delivering discrete projects then moving on to the next one
independence - being accountable to myself and not having to rely on colleagues
no office politics (but see below)
flexible working hours - a pro in that it means I can (in theory) work around school hours, see more of dcs and pay very little in childcare(but see below)

no commuting - sometimes I actually miss it as it used to be the only time I took 20 mins to sit down with a coffee and the newspaper
I sometimes miss office politics too - certainly miss having colleagues to chat to in the kitchen and definitely miss the prospect of career development (not that there ever was much of one...)
flexible hours can mean trying to squeeze too much in, blurring the work/home distinction, taking on work when it would atcually only be feasible with childcare so you end up working too much when dcs are around and/or working evenings - net result no time off. (but that's only to be expected it you going to try to cut out childcare)

ideas for the EHRC that would make my life easier (I know you didn;t ask but hey...)
- flexible ad hoc childcare, before and after school and in holidays - very difficult, I know. I can;t expect clubs to be there just in case I have a work crisis, but something to think about.

- tax breaks on childcare (over and above the childcare vouchers)

- a term-time/holiday structure that reflects modern life - not religious festivals and the need to have kids working the harvest hmm

mummydoc Mon 22-Sep-08 14:12:19

most of the posters seem to work from home, i am a locum doctor so do not have the pros of no commute etc, i fin dit rewarding because it is nice for the ego when surgeries ring up and want to book you because you have been good/impressive etc, the pro is not saying no to work for fear they will never ring again, so thought i did it to work less and more flexibly now work harder/longer an dhave the headache of my own admin/bookings/invoices and pension....actually i need a holiday desparately so probably feeling not very positve at hte moment.

overthemill Mon 22-Sep-08 14:12:44

being self employed the worst thing is the cash flow problem. Reallyt makes us so broke all the timeha hard getting clients to pay on time. and

ability to be flexible is good but surely employers should be flexible too?

miss the break off time that the commute gives - no break between work head and mummy head space.

letting down clients when sick/child sick - in an organisation someone else can usually pick up for you.

really need better after school care, not just for little ones but over 8 - 12 too

and in fact i am going back to work next month as i've had enough of earning reasonable money but never getting paid and always having huge overdraft

thumbwitch Mon 22-Sep-08 14:30:09

Was part self-employed (massage therapist) and part employed (lecturer and sub-editor) when I was pg; got stat mat pay from my employment for 9m. After that, had to go freelance because I didn't want to go back to the office so now am totally self-employed.

no need for external childcare
lots of time spent with DS
flexibility on both jobs

insecure income
inability to focus my time successfully because of taking care of DS
insufficient sleep because do work after DS has gone to bed (oh yes - and spend too much time on MN)

Wouldn't change it though - luckily DH is on reasonable income with O/T option.

Fleecy Mon 22-Sep-08 14:34:01

I'm a freelance copywriter - working from home. DD was two last week, DS is nearly 6 months.

- I can fit my hours in around the children (I don't have childcare) so I'm always here for them.
- I have no commute and no morning rush.
- No office politics.
- When I was employed I'd get endless rounds of legal comments and amends on each piece of work (mostly financial services). Now I get to do the creative stuff then that's usually it!
- The money's better as a freelancer.

- No social life! I have to work evenings and weekends. And no office social life either. No free Christmas parties!
- No security. You never know when you're getting the next job.
- No time off!

I agree childcare vouchers for self-employed people would be handy.

Porpoise Mon 22-Sep-08 14:38:27

Both Dh and I are self-employed, which is both lovely and bloody scary.

Can 'box and cox' childcare between us
Often both at home in the day
Can take/meet kids to/from school

Income wobbles up and down quite a lot
Workload unpredictable so can't plan more than a couple of weeks ahead (and have often had to cancel holidays)
Can be lonely (unless I get some office shifts)
Easy to get distracted by home chores

WheresTheAuPair Mon 22-Sep-08 14:56:14

I'm self employed and love it! I offer marketing services and retail aloe vera products (and team build with the same company).

My aloe work is fab as it fits in totally with being a mum- whenever i'm harping on about some new product i'm actually working! Its the most fun work i've ever had and definitely the most rewarding when I get customers who have health problems and my products really do help them. Also the people that i've introduced the business too have all (so far) had similar successes to me and its very rewarding helping them build their businesses. and of course having to try out lovely products as 'business expenses' lol. Its a hard life!

Cons... no longer wearing glam stuff to the office and no shopping in my lunch hour! I'm sure that because i'm home based I do the lions share of childcare and housework.

Also, sometimes I feel like i'm always working/checking emails. Not a problem generally tho as I love the work I do.

Saying this, my aloe work has superseded my marketing consultancy work in recent months so i'm no longer chained to the computer to do 'actual work'. Yakking away is work which suits me fine grin

Walkthedinosaur Mon 22-Sep-08 15:05:34

Self employed as a transcriber because I live abroad and it's the only work I can get that pays a decent living.


- Work from home
- Earn enough to live on.
- Am at home if DS's are ill.
- Can do the homework, piano practice etc with the DC's.


- Lonely.
- Deadlines mean sometimes have to leave DS'in front of TV while I work.
- Never turn down a job just in case no work tomorrow, so work seven days a week.
- Miss the commute and the chance to read a book on the train.
- Never switching off from work, always checking emails etc.
- Livable salary but earned so much more on a 9 to 5 in the city.
- No sick pay, have had to work on days when all I want to do us curl up and die.
- No holiday pay, so have caught myself panicking halfway through a week off and taken more work.

I would actually love to go back to office work with other people but it's not going to happen with DC's at school.

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 22-Sep-08 15:07:31

What about maternity/paternity leave - has that been an issue for anyone?

thumbwitch Mon 22-Sep-08 15:13:05

for my self-employment I had about 2.5m mat leave because of the sheer physical restrictions in the last month of pg and the 1st 6 weeks after DS was born. would have liked longer perhaps but the clients wanted me back and the money was useful.

suey2 Mon 22-Sep-08 15:36:55

yes, carrie.
I had to stop treating patients at 7 months as the bump literally got in the way. Was doing business admin until the week of the birth (was just before christmas) and started going in 2 weeks after she was born. I started treating patients again 4.5 months after she was born.

My first employee got PG 3 months after i employed her. It cost me 25K in lost earnings when she was off. She got PG again just as i was about to go on my own mat leave. Nothing to do but congratulate her! but it did occur to me that she was having the life i had worked so hard to get for myself- she came back on reduced hours with no late or early appointments. She was a fantastic employee in all other respects

suey2 Mon 22-Sep-08 15:37:58

oh, and i had maternity allowance but that was much less than i would usually earn

overthemill Mon 22-Sep-08 15:42:50

only did it post children - did it solely because of dd with chronic condition as it was 'meant' to be easier

Pinkyminkee Mon 22-Sep-08 16:02:46

Had M A, but also had some big contracts finishing at same time, which kept us going as MA was quite a pay cut at the time.
DH works in public sector- much earier than when he was lecturing which was conntact work. It's easier if one of you is on normal salaried work.

onceinalifetime Mon 22-Sep-08 16:22:18

Agree with everything so far - the most difficult issues for me are:

- not being able to turn work down
- flexibility being a double edged sword ('flexible' my arse when working at 2am)
- finding time to do admin - most importantly invoices
- the stress of trying to make business calls with dcs at home
- high workloads managing to coincide with dcs being ill and excluded from nursery
- saving money on lunches, however most of the time I don't make any lunch and eat rubbish instead

Sounds very negative but it's still miles better than trying to fit into a conventional 9-5 office routine with 4-5 weeks holiday, etc.

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 22-Sep-08 17:17:06

No maternity leave, like I sadi we reopened when DS was 8 days old, I do breakfasts book keeping etc DH did rooms as I had a section. Bt this balances out with time off in winter when we are quiet.

Bramshott Tue 23-Sep-08 10:00:10

On balance, I love being self-employed, but I am lucky that DH earns a reasonable amount so I am not trying to support a family on my earnings - more to cover childcare, keep my brain busy, and help out with extra money etc.

- no office politics or pointless meetings(this is a biggy for me grin)
- not having to commute every day
- the ability to take time off when I need to, and make it up later
- much less stress when the DC are ill

- no-one to share the stress with or delegate to
- difficult to take a holiday
- easy to end up 'out of the professional loop'
- having to pay for my own training
- no IT support!!!

I did get Maternity Allowance and took 4 months off when I had DD2. I still managed to lose a few of my contracts over my maternity leave period though, and of course as a freelancer there's no comeback on that.

Sunshinetoast Tue 23-Sep-08 13:28:16

Maternity allowance is very low - I've been saving money to top it up for my next period of maternity leave but its not been easy. Freelancing allows me flexibility and I can earn a reasonably high rate for not that many hours, but I couldn't afford to do it if I didn't have a partner with a steady income. Or rather I would be too nervous to do it without a partner with a steady income.

So what we've got is a fairly traditional arrangement - he works full time and I work very part time and do the bulk of the childcare and housework.

I'd hoped that things would even up over time but I'm starting to realise that childcare issues can get harder, not easier when children start school. (I know, seems stupid not to realise before!) so I'm not quite sure when we will reach the point where I can/want to work more hours.

MGMidget Wed 05-Nov-08 13:55:48

Pros: can spend more time with my baby (I work from home but have a nanny 3 days a week)
can usually take time out in the middle of the day if I need to e.g. for doctors visit for my son without having to justify it to anyone apart from myself!
When childcare lets me down (as my nanny does more often than she should!) I can often manage the workload without having to admit to anyone that my childcare arrangement has failed - a hassle for me but less hassle than if I was employed in an office 9-5.30 and had to apologise to my boss, loose a day's holiday etc etc.
cons: I earn much less than if I had the equivalent level employed job I had before I went self employed since I had to start building client base again after return from maternity leave (thanks to an idiot I hired to cover for me during maternity leave who lost me all my clients!)
I have to invest in childcare BEFORE I have any income in order to be available to attend speculative meetings with potential clients, prepare for new business pitches at short notice and to begin working on a new client (usually at short notice!). That means a big financial outlay before any income arrives - especially as it takes a couple of months to receive payment once client signed up - i.e. I work for a month then invoice retrospectively then wait a month or more for them to pay. I can only afford to do this because I have a well-paid husband who bankrolls me - I could be a stay-at-home mum if I wanted to be but I am trying to keep my career going as an investment for the longer term future while also being able to be close to my son when he is young.

motherinferior Wed 05-Nov-08 14:00:11

The big con, for me, was no real maternity pay. Maternity Allowance was £100 a week in my case. I can't pay my share of the mortgage and bills on that; each of my four-month maternity leaves cost me around six grand, I reckon.

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